Although the 2016 presidential primaries and caucuses are eight months away, some Thurston County voters are already rallying for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The group Thurston County for Bernie Sanders will hold a meet-and-greet among fellow supporters from noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturday (June 27) at Obsidian, 414 Fourth Ave. E. in downtown Olympia.
Event co-organizer Florence Vincent said Sanders, an independent and self-described socialist who is seeking the Democratic nomination, resonates in the progressive community because of his outspoken stances on income inequality and public funding of elections, for example.
“People are yearning for honesty,” said Vincent, a Tenino resident. “Bernie is my voice.”
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Olympia resident Scott Berry recently launched a Facebook page called Olympia For Bernie Sanders to help build local support for the candidate. He said Sanders lacks the name recognition of other presidential candidates — namely former First Lady, Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the presumptive front-runner — but President Barack Obama was relatively unknown before his campaign in 2008.
“If we can pull away some support from Hillary and get people out to vote, it could sway it a bit,” said Berry.
Thurston County and especially Olympia lean toward Democrats. In 2012, President Barack Obama won in the county with nearly 58.3 percent of the vote. Obama also topped Clinton in the 2008 February caucus with 50 percent of the vote compared to 46.9 percent (a spread of about 16,000 votes).
On the Republican side, the list of 2016 presidential candidates has reached 13: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.
As chairman of the Thurston County Republicans, Gary Holland said there’s a diverse local pool of conservative ideologies that includes moderates and Tea Party purists. The race is too wide open to pick a front-runner, but the sheer number of candidates reflects an energized Republican Party, he said.
“I think the reality is that Republicans see a real chance to elect a Republican president,” he said. His own favorite presidential hopeful is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is still expected to enter the race.
For now, the Thurston County Republicans are focused on local elections, including Stephen Ssemaala, who is running for Tumwater City Council. Despite the county’s left-leaning tendencies, the recent election of Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake has shown that conservative candidates can win here, Holland said.
“They were all encouraged by last November’s election,” he said.